Released: March 2015
It’s been obvious for a while now that Twin Shadow’s George Lewis Jr isn’t content with being an indie star. He wants to be a superstar. His last album, 2012’s sleek, 80’s indebted Confess saw him growing in confidence as a singer and songwriter, while honing in on a ‘rebel without a cause’ badboy persona. Initially Eclipse seems to pick up where Confess left off as opening number Flatliners begins, with subdued vocals atop a gentle, melancholy piano part. But as soon as the first bludgeoning chorus arrives, it’s pretty clear we aren’t in indie territory anymore.
For Eclipse, Lewis has fully embraced stadium bombast. Gone are the sinewy guitar lines and moody synths of Confess, replaced with booming drums and fist-pumping sing-along choruses. Everything is turned up to 11, with Lewis’ vocals in particular pushed to ear-shattering volume. There are quieter moments, but even here it’s clear that Eclipse represents Lewis’ bid for radio stardom. Most of the snakelike subtlety of previous albums is gone, with the focus placed squarely on catchy hooks and punchy instrumentation.
Initially, this is an approach that seems to pay off. Songs like Flatliners, To The Top and I’m Ready positively soar with triumphant, full-throated choruses. On tracks like this, Lewis clearly feels like he’s king of the world and, if for a moment, it’s impossible to argue.
The problem with this kind of unrelenting chest-thumping quickly becomes apparent – when the hooks aren’t as strong, it tends to fall a bit flat. There’s a real sense that the songs here aren’t as developed as they should be, with empty spectacle standing in for real depth. On the weaker songs like Turn Me Up and Half Life it’s all too apparent, and it goes some way to exposing the limitations of the stronger material too.
The maxed-out mix really doesn’t help either. Everything is pushed together into an overbearing smush that serves the more propulsive tracks well but really hinders the slower numbers. Songs like Alone and Locked & Loaded should represent a welcome changes of pace but instead they’re suffocated, with vocals, guitars, synths and drums all fighting for dominance when they should have room to breathe. When Lewis is going for broke he just about gets by on enthusiasm but when he hits the brakes his songs cave in around him, collapsing under their own ridiculous weight.
With Eclipse, Lewis is shamelessly shooting for the top and on tracks like To The Top, he has a pretty good view. But while this all-or-nothing attitude has led to some real highs, the overall result is something of a thud back down to Earth. Bombast and bluster only get you so far and while Eclipse is no failure, here’s hoping that on Twin Shadow’s next effort, Lewis will reign in some of his newly-developed bad habits.